As Rachel Aviv’s powerful and sorrowful story “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights” illustrates, there are far too many cases of exploitation of the elderly in this country and, unfortunately, often it is unscrupulous guardians who operate within our eldercare support network. Rudy and Rennie North were fortunate for the tenacity of their daughter, whose fight for their autonomy helped spark an investigation into the “legal elder abuse racket” in Nevada. Not everyone is so lucky.
While many states, including New York, have adopted effective laws to address the rampant problem of elderly exploitation — overlapping regulatory structures and perverse economic incentives, paired with a health care system that was not designed to care for the elderly — make it difficult for even well-intentioned guardians to navigate.
For example, the Project Guardianship partnered with the New York court system to use social service, legal, and financial professionals to help incapacitated adults live, age and die in ways that seek to respect their individual desires. It’s essential for models like the one — which prioritize the wishes of individuals without regard to their income or the wealth that they may have accumulated — be expanded geographically so vulnerable individuals may live out their remaining years in a just and appropriate way.